James Schall, S.J., a reliable source of wisdom among clerical leaders, has written a fine analysis of the meaning of the Iraq war. Fr. Schall says we had better not let our optimistic liberal principles blind us to the true nature of the long-term threat:
No one wants to see this situation as a clash of civilization or religion, which is fine, so long as this hesitation does not obscure precisely what it is. If the latter is true, that we are at the beginning of a clash of civilizations, then we must again begin seriously to treat the questions of the truth of the religions as such, just as we had to deal with the truth of ideology in the 20th Century. One of the effects of modern “toleration” theories has been the temptation to take nothing seriously, to suggest that all religion is fanaticism. The only conclusion would be to “eradicate it.” A better alternative, which the religions themselves have been reluctant to undertake, is a real effort to deal with the truth claims of the religions, not just what they have in common. We want to “respect” religions without understanding them. It would be much better, I suspect, if we would understand them before we decide what it is that we can and should respect. If it is true, as I think it is, that, in the case of Iraq, “to the defeated goes the spoils,” we must realize that this very principle or attitude has a religious origin. It would be useful for us to remember what that origin is.